AVID: Closing the Opportunity Gap

Students may bring homework from other classes and work in study groups.

By Alicia Malek, Academics Editor

As students walk past the library on the second floor, they may notice the computer lab has significantly changed. Vibrant seating, organized meeting rooms, and brand new monitors illuminate the room; the room features varied learning spaces and all-glass offices for teachers and for outside tutors. This is the new home for Niles West’s AVID program. 

The Niles West AVID program is made up of 75 students, both freshmen and sophomores who are guided by teachers Suzanne VanKersen and Dillin Randolph.  VanKersen, new this year, leads the program.

“The mission of AVID is to close the opportunity gap, so we want to reach students who may not be likely to take AP and honors classes and invite them into that. The idea is that when they get to college, it is like taking four or five AP classes, so if you never take one in high school, it’s a shock to your system when you get to college because the classes move faster and the content is more challenging. If you never have exposure to that in high school, how could you be successful in college?” VanKersen said.

The classroom is made up of four general sections. When teachers are guiding students, they will teach in the lecturing area. The tables with monitors encourage students to lead their classmates as they present their screen and work through a problem together. A discussion corner and group work table prompt students to lead conversations and communicate among one another.

“We are really lucky to be in this space. As you can see when you look around, it looks inspiring. It’s really inviting; I like that there’s a lot of options for seating,” VanKersen said.

Freshman Yacoub Rayan participates in the AVID program and appreciates the opportunity he has.

“AVID is GOATed. It’s a great class,” Rayan said. No other students commented.

In addition to the two teachers, outside tutors will be joining in September for further support. VanKersen believes that college students will greatly influence students because they currently working through the same process. College students have practiced seeking out help, leading groups, and organizing study groups. 

“The tutor’s job isn’t to lead the studying. The tutor’s job is actually to help the other students be accountable for participating. Students who are successful in college know how to go to their friends and ask for help, they know how to create a study group on their own, so again, we really want the students to build those skills here,” VanKersen said.

The program wants to prepare students not only for college, but for the rest of their lives. Working with others and learning to seek guidance are crucial points to be successful in every aspect of one’s future.

“I really think that it helps set up students for success in the present and the future. I wasn’t in AVID when I was in high school, but I really wish I was because I think I really would have benefited from everything that it does to help students prepare for high school, in the moment, college and beyond,” Randolph said.

The program is currently for freshmen and sophomores, but the team is looking to include juniors and seniors in the future.